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Scottish Nobility Naming Standards

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Scottish Nobility Team > Scottish Nobility Naming Standards

This is a draft document for the Scotland Project's Scottish Nobility Naming Standards for Profiles. Crawford-15512 16:16, 3 February 2020 (UTC)


Aims of the Team:

Parameters for Team:
  • The team will primarily keep a watchful eye on profiles of individuals who are considered to be members of the Scottish Nobility, either through birth or marriage. This will apply not only to those born in Scotland, but also the Scottish diaspora. There are many members of the Scottish Nobility who are citizens of other countries. For example, the current Earl of Newburgh, the 12th holder of this Scottish earldom, is Prince Rospigliosi in the Italian nobility.

Uniform Approach

  • There are many ways in which noble titles and names are acquired. It is recognised that for few names there is a single correct spelling. In relation to Scottish clans that are recognised by the Court of the Lord Lyon, the default spelling of the surname (LNAB) will be that used by the relevant Clan Chief and his/her family or by the person(s) administering the clan’s group on Wikitree. Where a person’s surname (LNAB) is different on an official birth record in the country of birth, that spelling will apply. In order to avoid confusion, members should use the other last name field to insert other spellings. It is not uncommon to find 2, or even 3, different spellings of surnames within the same generation, let alone a wider family or clan. In relation to titles, the spelling of the title will be that used in Balfour-Paul’s 9 volumes on the Peerage of Scotland.

Prefix Field

  • The prefix field should be used where the individual has a recognised prefix such as Sir, Lady, Rev, Dr, or a military rank. The only men who should have the prefix Lord are younger sons of Dukes and Marquises. The only women who should have the prefix Lady are the daughters of Dukes, Marquises or Earls. Where a woman acquires the title Lady through marriage, that should be reflected in the nickname field and only used if e.g. she was known by that title independently of her husband. Otherwise, titles should appear in the biographical section.
  • In Scotland, traditionally medical doctors are not in fact Doctors but Bachelors of Medicine and Bachelors of Surgery i.e. MB. Ch.B. However, by courtesy, they are accorded the prefix Dr. and that should be used. Similarly, in Scotland, the holders of an academic doctorate, whether earned or awarded as an honorary recognition of some achievement, are normally referred to as Dr. rather than Ph.D. or D.D., D.Phil. etc., as is the practice in the USA and other countries. Please use the prefix.

First Name Field

  • This should contain just the first Christian, or forename, of an individual. Where an individual is known by a compound Christian name, like Mary Ann or John Angus, please display this in the Preferred Name Field. There are also many instances, especially among early Wikitree profiles, of a Gaelic spelling of a name appearing, either in the first name field or middle name field. It should properly appear in the preferred name field.

Preferred Name Field:

  • This should be used for the name by which the individual was known. Hence, Robert Macgregor of Glengyle should have Rob Roy in the preferred name field. If someone was known by a Gaelic name, that should appear in the preferred name field.

Other Nicknames Field:

  • If someone was known by a Gaelic description, then it should appear here either in Gaelic or English. Clan Mackenzie in particular is fond of names such as Colin of the One Eye. I tend to cut and paste Gaelic names for fear of spelling them incorrectly and causing offence!

Middle Name Field

  • This is self-explanatory, and should be for all other names other than first and surname (LNAB).

Last Name At Birth Field

  • This field should, in all cases, reflect the surname the individual had and the relevant spelling, when known. In the absence of a birth certificate (post 1855), or Old Parochial Register entry (pre 1855), the spelling used by the child’s father if legitimate, or mother if illegitimate, or not acknowledged by the father, should be used. Where the family did use a compound surname, then that is the appropriate surname. In Scotland, most compound names are not hyphenated.

Current Last Name Field:


  • For almost all men, this will remain the surname (LNAB) held at birth. In some cases, e.g. where a man has adopted his father-in-law’s surname, in order to succeed to a title, or ownership of an estate, then it will change. See also below the rule for members of the Scottish Nobility.

Married Women

  • The most contentious situation is with married women. Under Scots Law, a woman keeps her maiden surname for life. However, by legal convention in the modern era (post-1855), she almost always automatically took her husband’s surname on marriage, unless she was of a higher social status. This is when he would often be expected to take her name. Even though most married women pre-1855 will appear in parish entries under their maiden name, it may be that she herself would use either, or both, her maiden surname and/or married surname . A good guide from 1841 is the census returns. Most married women appear in them under their current married surname.
  • For women pre 1855, it is a matter of choice. Defer to the Profile Manager, especially if he or she is a direct descendant of the female in question.
  • Remember, almost all records for married women pre-1855 are not evidence of the surname they used, but the surname the Church of Scotland chose to use in referring to them. The primary interests of the Church were to avoid fornication, incest, and illegitimacy. They recorded women’s maiden names to highlight pre-existing family links. Many parishes didn’t bother to name the mother on her children’s baptism records, because it was the father who determined the status of his children.
  • While the purists will argue, with some authority, that the profiles of Scots women living and dying before 1841 should always show her LNAB as her current surname, this causes literally thousands of duplicate profiles being unnecessarily created on Wikitree, followed by merges wherever spotted.
  • The project, therefore, has a married surname as the current last name default position, unless the Profile Manager expresses a wish for it to remain the LNAB.
  • If a married woman is the daughter of a member of the nobility, titled or untitled, then it is possible to retain her LNAB, with her current last name being LNAB, daughter of X where X is the name of her father’s estate. An example might be the profile Calder-2 for Muriel Calder (1498-1575), daughter of Sir John Calder, 8th Thane of Calder. Her LNAB is Calder. Her current last name can either be Calder, daughter of Calder as her father’s daughter, or Campbell of Calder, the territorial designation her husband took by becoming her father’s heir on his marriage to her. Her husband John Campbell, Campbell-190, appears to have been married twice. His second wife Isabel Lamont, Lamont-1163, can be shown as either Isabel (Lamont) Campbell as she presently is, or Isabel (Lamont) Campbell of Calder, because by the time she married John Campbell, he had already assumed his first father-in-law’s mantle as Thane of Calder which of course eventually became Cawdor.
  • The aim of this naming policy is to make the existing profile stand out in a surname search and thus reduce the chances of unnecessary duplication of profiles.

Members of the Scottish Nobility

  • On every occasion, if a person is the holder of a title or territorial designation, in compliance with the Scottish Nobility sub-project policy, it should appear in this box. If the policy changes, this guidance will change. If someone holds several titles, then only the most senior one should appear here, and others are referred to in the Biography.
  • Similarly, in respect of a married woman, whose husband owns a landed estate, she is invariably referred to as Lady X, where X is the name of her husband’s estate, not his surname. If the married woman is the wife of a Peer, she is known by the female version of her husband’s peerage.
  • Only the title, or territorial designation, should be inserted in this field, separated by a comma immediately after the current last name (surname).

Other Last Name(s) Field:

  • This is self-explanatory. And, if a woman has been married several times, then if possible, each married name prior to her final one, should appear. My advice is that if she was married more than 3 times, then this should be reflected in the biography. If a member of the Scottish Nobility was known by more than his or her most senior title, then such additional title(s) can be inserted in this field but it is preferable to just refer to them in the biography field.

Suffix Field:

  • This should only be used for recognised items such as Orders and Decorations. The suffix Esq. has a specific legal meaning in Scotland, and is applied only to men who are Gentlemen. Invariably, these are members of the untitled nobility, i.e. holders of coats of arms without a title.
  • It is not the practice in Scotland to put a suffix after a man’s name in order to indicate he is, for example, the sixth generation to hold that name, or a father (Snr, Sr), or son (Jnr, Jr), sharing the same names. This practice is commonly adopted in the USA.
  • It is also not the practice in Scotland to put a suffix after a man’s name to indicate he is (e.g.) the first holder of a title or territorial designation. For example, when Sir Walter Scott was elevated to the rank of Knight Baronet in 1820, he became Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet not Sir Walter Scott, Baronet 1st.

Birth Date:

  • There are too many profiles where this is blank. A reasonable estimate should always be inserted in the absence of an actual, documented date. Common sense should apply. In Scots Law, boys could marry at 14, and girls at 12. With the exception of Henry VII’s mother, few women bore children before the age of 15. And, very few successfully bore them above the age of 45. If possible, check if there is a date of marriage, or marriage contract, for the parents. Base your estimate on that. The eldest son should normally be born within 5 years of the parents’ marriage. The youngest child cannot be born more than 9, or at most 10, months after the father’s death. And, absolutely no children can be born after the date of the mother’s death!

Birth Place:

  • Locations can be confusing, especially if one is unfamiliar with Scottish geography. Also, place names, especially counties, can be tricky without an understanding of Scottish history. For example, Ross and Cromarty was only created in 1890. Any reference to that county before 1890 is not correct, and it would be either Ross-shire or Cromartyshire. Morayshire was for a long time known as Elginshire. Angus was known as Forfarshire. West Lothian was known as Linlithgowshire, and Midlothian as Edinburghshire. In addition, someone cannot have been born at a location which did not exist at the time. A man cannot have been born in a castle which was only erected by his grandson!
  • Referencing the Scotlands Places site is recommended

Death date:

  • These are less important than birth date, but where known should be entered, even if using the before option. This can often be ascertained from the marriage record of a child where a parent is described as deceased, or a person described as a widow, or widower.

Death place:

  • The same comments apply as to the location of a person’s birth.

Marriage date:

  • In the absence of a known date, a reasonable estimate should be given. Because, as with birth and death dates, it helps reduce the impossibility of parents marrying while one of them was still a child, or after the date of all their children’s’ births, with a few notable exceptions. If there is no marriage date, but there is a marriage contract, either use that date or mark it as after that date.

Marriage Location:

  • The same logic applies as to birth and death locations.

Biographical Details and Ancillary Matters:

  • There are Clan stickers and Project boxes. The former are the small stickers which should generally be used. Project boxes should only be used on profiles where the project is the profile manager. There is a standard set of clan designs and tartans which should be adhered to. Don't hesitate to ask for guidance about this, and all else.
  • Where a profile displays miscellaneous items, which are either simply wrong (e.g. a picture of a castle the individual never lived in), or a coat of arms which was the property of another person (remember, there is no such thing as a clan or family coat of arms), the Profile Manager should be contacted privately, and encouraged to remove them. If they remain after 7 days, then by all means, remove them.
  • Some profiles have a great deal of extraneous or irrelevant information that might not be to our taste. Unless it is factually misleading, or simply inaccurate, it is for the Profile Manager to decide whether to retain it or not.
  • The use of Succession Boxes help link profiles, and are to be encouraged.


  • Please encourage the use of good sources. While Family Search and online trees can be indicative, they are not primary sources and are open to plagiarism. This has the unhappy result of promoting inaccurate information.

Research Notes:

  • These do not appear very often, and can be invaluable. They offer the Wikitreer a place to give an explanation in a factual manner as to why some comment or detail on the profile may or may not be correct.


  • Some profiles have these, and unless there is something factually incorrect, they should never be removed. They are a means of thanking someone for taking the time, putting in the effort of creating, or making a substantial contribution to the profile.


  • Remember, all members of the Wikitree community are volunteers. In most cases, they genuinely believe what they are posting. Even if we know comments are totally incorrect, please share this information in as sensitive a manner as possible. Wherever possible, communicate your concern about content on a profile to the Profile Manager in a private message. Only post it on the face of the profile if you get no response or a negative response.
  • If you need guidance, or wish to discuss the content of a particular profile, please contact Mark. Failing that, contact Amy or another team member.

Examples of Profile Names for Scottish Nobles:

Bethune-14: Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop of St Andrews

His LNAB was Bethune, but he was known as Beaton. Cardinal is an appropriate prefix, and his title was Archbishop of St Andrews. So, his profile should be:
Prefix: Cardinal
First Name: David
LNAB: Bethune
Current Last Name: Beaton, Archbishop of St Andrews

Mackenzie-905 Roderick Mackenzie, 1st Laird of Redcastle

His LNAB was Mackenzie. He became the 1st in the line of Mackenzies to own Redcastle, making his title 1st Laird of Redcastle. Scottish Barons were landowners, not peers. So his profile should be
First Name: Roderick
LNAB: Mackenzie
Current Last Name: Mackenzie, Laird of Redcastle
In his biography, it would be explained that he was the 1st Laird of Redcastle, on being granted the Barony.

Mackenzie-1261: Kenneth Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Seaforth (Irish creation)

First Name: Kenneth
LNAB: Mackenzie
Current Last Name: Mackenzie, Earl of Seaforth
As numbers and symbols cannot be inserted in the Current Last Name Field, it should be made clear in his biography that he was created Earl of Seaforth as an Irish Peerage, in order not to be confused with the much earlier Earldom of Seaforth, which was granted to his ancestors as a Scottish Peerage.

Moravia-10: William Sutherland, 3rd Earl of Sutherland

First Name: William
LNAB: Moravia
Current Last Name: Sutherland, Earl of Sutherland
At the time of his birth, William’s family was known as De Moravia and under Wikitree project rules, the LNAB should ignore theDe. During his lifetime, he and his brother more commonly used, and were referred to, by the surname Sutherland. In his biography, it should be made clear that he adopted the surname Sutherland, and that on the death of his father, he became the 3rd Earl of Sutherland.

Sutherland-3463: Margaret Sutherland of Kinminitie

First Name: Margaret
LNAB: Sutherland
Current Last Name: Sutherland, Lady Artamford
It will be seen from her profile, Margaret became the wife of James Irvine, the 3rd Laird of Artamford. However, on marriage ,she did not become known as Margaret Irvine, as would be the modern practice. Since her husband was the Laird of Artamford, she became known as Lady Artamford. Indeed, in Court of Session court papers, she was referred to as Margaret Sutherland, Lady Artamford.

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